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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jeff & Shun - Music For A Good Cause!

There are many charity events we have heard of and perhaps attended. It may be safe to assume that most people attend these events to demonstrate their support. While the generous ones give donation in monetary or in kinds, some give efforts and time. This time, I was roped in to help Jeffrey Yong to ensure a smooth presentation of this meaningful fund-raising event, i.e. Shun Ng in concert @ Methodist College Kuala Lumpur.

Jeffrey Yong is without a shadow of doubts a God loving and fearing man. He is the man behind this event. He attends the church services provided by MCKL. At MCKL he got to associate with refugees from Myanmar. These refugees are youthful individuals who have fled their country. The escape journey is literally deadly and the mortality rates are high. However the internal situations faced by these youthful Myanmar people were compelling enough for them to jump into the fire. If you’re thinking about some combat or thriller movies, add a few notches and that is what they are prepared to faced. Jeff feels for this group thus the idea of fund raising sets in and Shun was identified… the rest is history.

Personally I heard of these horrific stories from him for a while but it was totally different when I met the Myanmar people in person. Since the guitar-building course with Jeffrey Yong, we became friends and brothers in Christ. I have indeed learned a great deal from Jeff. I made regular visits to his workshop in Kuala Lumpur and many occasions I joined him in attending the church services at MCKL. The escaping stories shared by the Myanmar people were fearsome, horrific and unthinkable. Just when we think that in this modern civilized society, how could it happen? The predicament they faced to most people are unbearable but I was deeply moved by their faith for our Abba Father. Even in their darkest hours, they will still worship the Lord unfailingly.

Currently headed by Moey Yoke Lai, Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) is a private educational institution. Methodist Council of Education founded MCKL in January 1983 by the. The Founder Principal was Mrs. F R Bhupalan. It provides quality education to the community. It reaches out to both locals and the needy foreigners. Below are a few pictures and the weblink:

The Campus view

Campus Building

Campus Life

Myanmar is a country in constant political turmoil as well as in a constant exodus. Many youths have made death-defying attempts in departing their home country to seek for greener pastures. Due to geographical reasons, Malaysia is one of such greener pastures.

MCKL started a voluntary community service project called the Ruth Education Centre. The centre aims to provide a temporal refuge to these Myanmar people who have successfully obtained protection from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The demographics are generally young personnel of varying ages. In Ruth Education Centre, they enjoy mutual support from each other, structured learning programs, decent meals and a shelter over their heads.

As for the journey from Myanmar to Malaysia is nothing short of harrowing. In brief, each one has to cross two borders, travel thousand of miles, and in conditions that are unthinkable to many fortunate youths who lead a regular life. Without divulging too much … the mode of transport is either taxi or van … each taxi will take 20 people … the rest of the story is up to your imagination.

It is time to share about the concert…

Shun Ng ( is known for his talent in funk/blues finger-style guitar playing, at least many people know him in this manner. However he is also a generous person who gladly devotes his time and utilizes his God given talent to benefit the needy ones. This time was no exception plus he was performing with a fractured right hand that was injured as a result of many hours of practices.

Jeffrey Yong ( needs little introduction. Likewise he is usually known as a Luthier who builds good guitars but his compassion persona is seldom displayed publicly. I am fortunate to have witnessed it through this event. Led by God, he decided to organize this concert to raise fund for the Myanmar people by involving Shun Ng. This match could not be better.

Jeff giving a short opening

The Myanmar people from Ruth Education Centre have put together a choir to present an cappella version of “How Great Thou Art”. It wasn’t about how professional and well rehearsed they were but the total devotion towards worshipping the Lord. Admittedly I have heard better-arranged versions but I have not heard one that was so passionately dedicated to the Lord. After I learned about their past experiences, it was not hard to understand their convictions and love for God. Urban dwellers like us often convince ourselves of the multiple options we could take to “be better” but very few actually remember the basics in life. In this concert, Shun has sung a song about the important things in our lives which points to the basic and necessities. Yet most urban dwellers suit themselves up with many accessories in their lives and passed them off as necessities. Isn’t it convenient?

The Myanmar People Choir during rehearsal

How Great Thou Art by the Myanmar people

Shun Ng has delivered an electrifying performance that left the audience yearning for more. The Myanmar people where absolutely in awe as they have never seen such style of playing even among them there are guitar players. At the end of the concert, the Myanmar people mobbed Shun; taking photos, signing autographs, etc. The Myanmar people expressions were totally authentic, no guards, no hidden agendas, they plainly wanted Shun to know that their joy was because of his performance. As a believer, I guess this is all about the simple yet important gesture of giving thanks to our Lord for all the things He has done and granted us freely.

Shun's new fans

Since I am on giving thanks, it is time to recognize those people whom have helped in one way or the other. Robert Schnöller who was in Kuala Lumpur attending the guitar-building course offered by Jeff Yong went along to help. Yujie James Loo who was also attending the same program as Robert was there to watch his guitar teacher’s performance who is incidentally Shun Ng. Ooi Boon Kim who has built several guitars with Jeff Yong came along to offer his assistance as well. Nicolai Gerebtzoff was there to facilitate the lightings and sound. Foo Kai Seong filled the role as the official camera crew of this event. Michael is a staff in Methodist College who was directly involved in facilitating this concert in terms of the usage of premises and also leading the Myanmar people’s choir. As well as the Myanmar people who have rendered their assistance for the event. They all made this concert a great one.

Shun's Family, a lovely one indeed

Shun’s family members, from right Ng Meixi, Alison Ling, Shun Ng, Ng Meizhi and John Ng, they have been very supporting throughout. Not forgetting two important individuals. Jeffrey and Shun for playing the critical roles in the success of this event. The Lord has indeed brought both of them together to bless those around them. How Great Thou Art …

In closing, associating with these Myanmar people has been the most rewarding part of my involvement in this concert. The experience has etched this statement in my mind, “Simple pleasures but never insignificant pleasures.”

Here're some concert pictures

Shun's guitars

Quiet moments ...

Foo, Boon Khim, Nic and Robert. They volunteered their time

Robert, Boon Khim and Shun .. all set to go

Foo Kai Seong, capturing video and audio

Moey Yoke Lai, the CEO of MCKL

Shun mingles with the crowd

Serenading to a couple 

In his own world
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guitar Store LAUNCHED!

This is likely to be my shortest posting ...

The background to Guitar Store is all about guitar lovers and collectors. Through years of acquaintances I have come to meet guitar lovers of all shapes, sizes and colors. I am really fortunate to meet them and also their guitars. Even more so, some of them have entrusted me with their beloved guitars in repairs, restore and sales as well. For all these, I thank the Lord for His blessings ...

Singapore being a small country but the brand presence of exquisite guitars is certainly not small by any measure. Numerous pre-own guitars can be found on the local forums or classified advertisement medias. The pre-owned guitar market prices are much more competitive than the brand new ones. This has given opportunities to many guitar lovers to get their hands on their "dream guitars" that would have been otherwise unreachable.

A Kent Chasson Built, Cocobolo Back/Sides
Taken from:

Over the years, I have witnessed many fine guitars being placed on sales ad. They come and go pretty fast. It might be logical to think that good branded guitars will move fast but ... there are a myriad of factors that can enhance or diminish the sale opportunity. Here are a few I have personally learned through experiences that can lower the chances of a successful sales.
  1. Inadequate or inaccurate written information
  2. Unrealistic price point
  3. Poor visual quality
  4. This is a subjective one ... attitude of sellers and buyers
The Guitar Store is set up to sell guitars of course. However I think that taking good pictures of these lovely guitars is just as importance to other success selling factors. More than often, well taken guitar pictures can give hours of viewing pleasure to guitar lovers. It is not unusual for guitar lovers to kinda ogle at beautiful guitar pictures found in the internet.

Sell or not is one thing but I believe good pictures can accentuate the true beauty of each well-built guitar. It is only fair to the Luthiers who have built these guitars to put in adequate effort in capturing the beauty in still frames. While I have done my level best to capture the best sides of the guitars showcased in this store, I am no professional in photography. If you find my shots are not comparable to your personal liking, I apologize herein in advance. You're welcome to drop comments in my blog so that the pictures can become better over time.

I hope my blog's Guitar Store can become one of your frequent visited websites to view beautiful guitar pictures. If things get sold, it is a big bonus to me ... certainly to the willing buyers too.

Visit the Guitar Store by clicking:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Singapore Guitar Show Dec 2011

It was backed … two days at Suntec City, a display of various brands of handcrafted guitars, both local and overseas, to the local guitar community; it is the Singapore Guitar Show 2011 (

Day One of the Singapore Guitar Show

Tien Chor who volunteered to help

Playing guitar can be seen as a life long learning journey because nobody can claim full mastery. In this journey, we learn abundantly from any available knowledge sources that bombard us. We picked up both facts and myths as we learn more about guitars. With the internet, we can learn almost anything we can conceive of. While the information is easily accessible, the downside is the authenticity of it. Regardless if it is conscious effort or not, we learned from these many sources. Internally, we exercise personal evaluation on the information obtained or granted, and draw conclusions. By this process, we grow in wisdom and discernment. Did we? I had numerous interactions with the people at the show. Interestingly, it has prompted these thoughts; in any given learning settings, the absence of truth is quickly filled with assumptions. The assumptions solidified over time and when left unverified, they turned into pseudo facts … reversing these pseudo fact has proven to be difficult.

This observation was most interesting to me in the show. I think everyone has experienced it before. However, only some grew out of it. What might interest you at guitar shows?

In this posting, I try to do away with introducing every guitar maker, as it may be repetitive to do so. Instead lets’ discuss the interesting perspectives gathered from the people who turned up for this show. Anyway, I helped Terence Tan in organizing the show this year whereas I was an exhibitor in 2010.

These are the perspectives I have gathered ...

Heavy guitars, what about them? It was a common myth surrounding heavyweight guitars. It appeared that lightweight guitars were assumed to be good sounding guitars. While some guitar makers have consciously tried to reduce the weight of guitars, it wasn’t directly linked to tonal properties. Without a doubt, lightweight guitars were easier to handle. However to conclude that heavyweight guitars were less superior than the light ones were clear evidence of one’s failure to understand the principles of guitar construction. Invariably, to think that lightweight guitars will automatically produce good tone is all but truth. The great number of such claims I heard from the show participants didn’t surprise me.

Anyone who handles a Caldersmith guitar ( will immediately feel the weight of the guitar. It was comparable to the weight of a regular electric guitar. If one stuck to the myth, such guitars will be disqualified before they have any chances of showcasing their potential. The weighty feel of Caldersmith guitars were indeed unusual because most classical guitars are lightly built. For centuries, many luthiers learned from one generation to the next. I suspect the notion of building lightweight classical guitars was linked to the perceived social value of classical music. Caldersmith Guitars produces such lovely tone that resembles birds’ singing. The classical guitars were not only well made; their loudness was surely amazing. The saddle was sloped which unliked the regular classical guitars where the saddles were flat straight. A Caldersmith feels nothing like a classical guitar until you pluck the first note. When that note travels to one’s ear, the thick, mellow yet defined tone will immediately eliminate all doubts.

Caldersmith Guitars

The lovely ladies behind Caldersmith Guitars and I

Jeffrey Yong’s guitars ( are heavily built because his design principles of the soundbox were base on loudspeakers’ cabinet design. Well designed and built speakers were usually heavy in weight except for the new age designs type, e.g. Bose’s jewel cube speakers. Suffice to say that hi-fi enthusiasts will go for heavy speakers when given the options. In 2006, Jeffrey built a Monkeypod wood guitar and participated in a blind-listening guitar contest at the Guild of American Luthiers Convention 2006. It was heavy and unlike the conventionally built acoustic guitars. His entry has beaten all other guitars to emerge as the winning guitar. Since then, Jeff’s guitars have established their identity. By this measure, weight of the guitar was certainly not a determinant factor to quality as assumed by many.

Jeff and Rod

Jeff's collection

Steve and Jeff, both are happy men

Good materials make good guitars. Learning this notion was very common during the junior phase of playing and learning guitars. There were abundance literatures written about suitable woods for guitar building in the internet. However the commonly featured woods come from temperate regions and certain endangered species. As scarcity sets in, also due to excessive commercialization, it drives the prices of such materials upwards. As a result, the market prices of guitars made from certain rare or restricted woods increased tremendously. It is 101 consumer psychology; an exorbitantly priced guitar can’t be a bad one. There was another subjective factor that influenced the way we perceived the quality of a given guitar regardless of price, built and tonal properties, i.e. our personal preference. While this may cast doubt in every guitar’s worth but the assumption of good materials equal good guitars were overwhelmingly pervasive among guitar lovers. Therefore it was almost an instant agreement among guitar lovers to related good sounding guitars to good materials used. The presence of many guitars in the show have helped to debunk this myth.

Unshakable Perceptions; an ostrich that has its head buried thinks it is safe. Nothing can be further than the truth. The influence of literature was strong enough to convince many luthiers that instruments building woods were limited to a few species. Some have totally ruled out any woods not found in the commercial suppliers’ catalogues. Won’t we hear similar guitar tones regardless who builds the instrument as a result of such fixations? Some guitar makers will never use certain type of woods because they simple don’t believe in them … or such luthiers don’t believe in himself or herself? Guitar construction principles include selection of wood but it was not the prime principles of consideration. Instead attaining the mastery of the art and science in controlling the stiffness of the sounbox have greater significance than the frantic pursuit for the rarest wood on this planet. Before Jeff won the blind-listening guitar contest, nobody has heard of Monkeypod wood and much less to use it for guitar making. In fact many luthiers have explicitly undermined Jeff’s practices in using tropical woods. It table has turned after 2006.

Pushing the Boundaries. Classical guitars making was always guided by traditions. Any deviations from the advocated ways were strongly discouraged. However creativity is alive and it wants to change things. I met Rod Capper ( in this show. A great guy and he builds classical guitar. Immediately I noticed the elevated fingerboard in his guitar design. He shapes a piece of wood into a wedge and glued it between the neck and the fingerboard thus elevating the fingerboard (see picture). It improves playability by leap and bounce, noticeable sustain was achieved as well. However this feature was all but traditional … but his passion for building better guitars has overwhelmed the shackles of tradition.

Rod Capper and I

The elevated fingerboard design

A Rod Capper Classical Guitar

A Rod Capper Classical Guitar

In my best effort to illustrate the guitar show through this posting, I may miss certain exhibitors. Please accept my sincere apology in advance. Maestro Guitars has again showed their presence in the show. The guitars they have showcased were quality stuffs. The look, feel and tone of Maestro Guitars have surely progressed tremendously over the years. Worthy Guitars from Australia participated in the show for the first time. The man behind Worthy Guitars is David. A great guy to exchange ideas with and his guitars were very well built with great details and refinement. Another Australia guitar maker Scott Wise was also here for the first time. He has Ukeleles on display as well. Three handcrafted guitars brands came from Indonesia. They are Secco, Suwig and Prim’s Guitars. It was indeed the show’s honor to have their participation. Parekh Exports brought for the show a selection of instrument building woods. Not forgetting the local retailers that have faithfully supported the show, they are Tomas Music, MusicArk and Awe-In-One guitar picks. The show wouldn't been possible if not for the passionate support from Altas's team ( who has provided the wonder BOSE sound system for the performance segments. Thanks to Bobby, Wee How and Sean, they are wonderful to collaborate with.

This show has allowed me to meet new friends who are liked minded. I must say it was very rewarding for me personally. During the show, I have shared an invention of mine regarding dehumidifying of guitars. The responses were very encouraging. I received not only their attention, they freely gave their thoughts, suggestions and ideas in helping to augment the invention. I now look forward to the next show and also the progress of my invention.

Here’re more pictures

MusicArk ... Lance is setting up

David, the man behing Worthy Guitars

Suwig Guitar, Indonesia

Secco Guitar, Indonesia

Prim's Guitars, Indonesia

Maestro Guitars ... surely from Singapore

Tomas Music

An overseas performer

David and I
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Featured Guitar - the "BLACKIE" by Jeffrey Yong

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Scott Adams.

With the creation of every masterpiece, it carries the lessons and mistakes made during the evolution process, likewise in guitar making.

In April 2010, Shun Ng attended Jeffrey Yong's guitar-making course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and everything changes henceforth.

Shun Ng started playing guitar at the age of 16. Other than with a certain girl who worked in Ben & Jerry store, Shun has never fell so deeply in love; guitar playing. His abilities in translating tunes in his mind onto guitars are unusually advanced. He has progressed with great leaps that astounded most guitar players. I believe you would be too … if you watch this YouTube clip … it was recorded a few years back when he was considered as “not yet mature” in his playing. Imagine now …

The duo has been collaborating well. One loves to build, the other loves to play. The duo often bounced off ideas between themselves and new things will emerge from the bouncing of these ideas. The Blackie, an Artist Model certain fits the bill. Here is a picture of the Blackie.


I was fortunate to be in touch with this master and I found out something about the Blackie. Here is the story …

Since April 2010, the duo has been in constant contact. Shun loves Jeff Yong guitars and he has been using one for his performances as his main guitar. An immensely talented performer who is young, energetic and passionate. Shun is constantly altering his playing style, reinventing himself, finding new angles, etc. The more he plays it, more ideas got generated. Shun would ask Jeff if this feature that feature was possible and ... on and on ... eventually Jeff decided to build a model for Shun's unique style of playing.

For a stylish, forward-looking and modern emerging artists like Shun, Jeff could not think of a better color than Black to describe his presence. Black became the theme of this new creation. Rewinding the evolution of Blackie ... Shun has desired for a guitar with longer bass string because of his percussive cum bass attack style. Longer bass string means deeper bass tone which is likened to a baritone guitar. Jeff’s responded by proposing a fanned-fretted guitar. It can satisfy Shun’s desire for longer bass string.

Due the frequent use of thumb, Shun has DYI on one of his guitars. He has attempted to scallop the top edge of the guitar neck to create a scalloped cavity for his thumb rest on whilst fretting the bass strings. The outcome wasn’t ideal … Jeff translated this feature onto to the Blackie as well. The thumb scallops have became a standard feature on Jeff's Blackie. Unlike any other guitars, the combination of fanned-frets and thumb scallops were certain like a breath of fresh air in guitar-making.

Enjoy the pictures ... if you want to test drive the Blackie, just visit the Singapore Guitar Show from 3 to 4 Dec 2011, 10am to 6pm daily, at Suntec City Gallery West.

Thanks for viewing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

国际指弹吉他音乐节 - International Fingerstyle Guitar Festival 2011

It was that time of the year again to make a trip to China for the annual Music China Expo in Shanghai. I have attended this event in 2010. It was my first visit then and everything was novel and interesting. This year October I was back there once more to scout the music industry of China. Actually, the Music China Expo was secondary this time. The main event was the International Fingerstyle Guitar Festival (IFSGF) organized by Huang Chia Wei of Naga Guitars of Taiwan. It was held from 15 to 16 Oct 2011 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 上海东方艺术中心. My role in that event was an exhibitor.

The International Fingerstyle Guitar Festival

上海东方艺术中心, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center
Taken from:

The entrance to the expo

One of the exhibition halls

To benefit those who haven’t heard of Music China Expo and ISFG, here is a brief background of both events.

Music China Expo – if I am not wrong, it started in year 2010 as part of the World Expo Event in China. This event pulls together the entire music industry. Consolidating all industry players into one major expo. If you know about NAMM, it is the same. One thing about events in China; they are HUGE! Here is the weblink to Music China:

International Fingerstyle Guitar Festival Shanghai (国际指弹吉他音乐节) – it started also in 2010. Various industry players collaborated to stage this festival. The main organizer is Naga Guitars that bases in Taiwan. The person behind the scene is a Taiwanese artist by the name of Huang Chia Wei, 黄家伟 who is also the owner of Naga Guitars. Another strong support for this event was Fusion Guitars, a Guangzhou based guitar manufacturer. The festival features three concurrent events, a fingerstyle guitar competition, two days of marathon fingerstyle performances by international artists and an Acoustic Guitars exhibition. While these exciting competition and performances were underway, the acoustic guitar exhibitions were held simultaneously at the performance venue. It was indeed filled with activities that never stop.

黄家伟 Huang Chia Wei with a Naga Guitar

Taken from:

Here are the weblinks.
For this year’s festival, 12 international artists were invited. Here is the line up of the invited artists for this festival.
  1. Alex de Grassi, USA (
  2. Dan La Voie, USA (
  3. Justin King, USA (
  4. Shun Komatsubara, Japan (
  5. Ryohei Shimoyama, Japan (
  6. Vitaly Makukin, Ukraine (
  7. Paolo Sereno, Italy (
  8. Tomi Paldanius, Finland (
  9. Sungha Jung, South Korea (
  10. Hikaru Tanimoto, Japan (
  11. Chris Liu, Taiwan (
  12. Jacky Lau, Hong Kong (
  13. Stuart Masters, UK (
For more detail, the weblink to IFSGF:

In chronological order, here is a recount of my trip.

12 Oct 2011

Jeff was on an earlier flight hence he checked into the hotel. I arrived to the hotel with no sight of Jeff as he went out with the crew of Naga Guitars for dinner. Unexpectedly, three gentlemen showed up at the hotel and mentioned a pre-arranged meeting with Jeff. The purpose was to try his guitars. Well such things do happen in China I guess. They waited patiently at the hotel and Jeff finally returned.

The visitors are professional classical guitar teachers. So they went on to sample Jeff guitars one at a time. A country with population exceeding a billion, it was no surprise that these teachers were well connected to their counterparts in Shanghai. They invited us to a classical guitars gathering at another lodge. It was closed to midnight then. Nevertheless, we obliged.

Jeff brought his classical guitar to this meeting. The classical guitars at the gathering were mostly high-end stuffs. The moment the door swung opened, I was puzzled by the unusual low visibility even at such close proximity but not for long. When the scent diffused into my nose, it all made sense then. Well, we learned to adapt to such situations.

Eric Wu or 吴老师 playing Jeff's classical guitar

One of the classical guitar teachers at the gathering

After brief moments of playing several guitars, they traded opinions and knowledge regarding classical guitars. Inferring from their conversation, it was evident that they were fixated on the tradition of classical guitars especially in wood selection and basic construction. Most of them were not accustomed to see innovative features on classical guitars. Their conversations revolved about the cosmetic attributes of classical guitars. It was also usual to assume that expensive wood gives quality tone. In terms of awareness in guitar building processes, it was elementary. However the general awareness has risen a lot more compared to my previous visit to Shanghai.

Me having a go at one of the hi-end classical guitars

A nice group shot. Thanks to Dexter (second from right) for his photos

It was cleared to me that the industry was growing fast in China. In not time, the depth of knowledge and appreciation should cascade down to the end-users and they should be able to appreciate the intrinsic values of this wonderful instrument at deeper levels.

13 Oct 2011

Jeff and I spent the day at the Music China Expo. It was similar to the previous years except the organizer has tightened the grouping in terms of genres. Again there was no escape from walking from one hall to another to see all the exhibits. We must have walked miles. Below are some random pictures of the expo.





In my last visit, many exhibitors were focusing on product varieties. Most booths were packed with merchandizes that one could hardly notice any visual identity. This year, I observed more companies emphasizing on simplicity over variety. Some large booths contain a low number of products. It gave a clean look, and visitors can focus on the main products. Distractions from other peripheral items were kept to the minimum. The performers stage set up was closer to the visitors unlike the previous show where most performers were standing on elevated stages. At Ayers Guitars' booth was a good example of up close to the artist. Stuart Masters from UK was performing for Ayers Guitars. He was one of the featured artists for IFSGF. Due to his schedule, he could only perform on the first day of the festival. Here's a picture of him in action at Ayers Guitars' booth taken a few feet away.

Stuart Masters playing for Ayers Guitars

Jeff and I were merely visitors for this expo. The primary purpose of our visit was the IFSGF. Jeff has sponsored one guitar as the top prize for the fingerstyle guitar competition. As Naga Guitars are the main drive behind the ISFG, we visited their booth to meet Huang Chia Wei. We met a few artists at Naga Guitars’ booth as well. Chia Wei has generously allowed Jeff to display one of his guitars at the booth in helping Jeff’s guitars to gain some mileage in China. For the event, Jeff has made the Blackie, a fanned fretted, scalloped top edge fingerboard, fitted with Anthem pickups, full monkeypod body guitar. Here’re the pictures.

Jeff's very own design, the "Blackie"

Just arrived

Cleaning the "Blackie"

"Blackie" on display

Vitaly Makukin at Naga Guitars' Booth

Tomi Paldanius performing in outdoors for Naga Guitars

We went about the other halls and along the way we met a few familiar faces. The walk wasn’t fruitless for me. We met Don Alder, a Yamaha artist, 2 times winner of fingerstyle guitar championship at Winfield, Kansas and also the winner of the Guitar Superstar Champion 2010 organized by Guitar Player Magazine. That is something! Jeff knew him for a long time and they were buddies. Incidentally, Don will be a judge for the fingerstyle guitar competition at the IFSGF. More pictures of the expo.

Me, Don and Jeff





A sure-fire formula to get attention from the crowd

The expo ends at 1700hrs daily. By then, we were pretty drained by the amount of walking and talking. We left with the crew of Naga Guitars, Fusion Guitars and the artists for dinner. This so called dinner, drinking was actually the main activity and filling our stomachs were meant to neutralize the alcohol effects. Tomi stole the show by making everyone drink. We played the “spin-and-drink” game. Well, in China there was no lack of good drinkers and Mr Lee, the owner of Fusion Guitar surely fits the bill. He didn't seem to have limit to the amount of liquor intake. Of course he gladly down whatever alcohol and amount toasted towards him. What a man … few pictures to illustrate my point on drinking …

Mr Lee and Tomi

Vitaly, Paolo, Mr. Lee and Tomi

14 Oct 2011

It was the final day of Music China Expo. Jeff and I continued to booth hop. It was usual for exhibitors to utilize the afternoon for packing and moving out of the venue. As such there wasn’t much to see in the afternoon.






At the violin section, we met Christie (宋青), a close friend to Jeff and 仁强. He was the winner of last year’s China fingerstyle guitar competition. We chatted about the music industry in China. Incidentally 仁强 has a gig in the evening at a cultural activities centre. It was a local fingerstyle guitar concert and we were invited to attend it. In China, classical guitar is known as 古典琴 whereas steel string guitar is known as 名谣琴. Within the genre of steel string guitars, there are Fingerstyle(指弹) guitar playing that is emerging fast in China and the popular strum & sing (弹唱). Internet has been a major driving force for the emergence.

Local Fingerstyle Guitar Concert

仁强 playing the Blackie

We had dinner with Christie before we adjourned to the concert. There were 3 main performers. Each has his unique style. 仁强 was very obliging, he played Jeff’s guitar even on an eleventh hour request. The performance was well received by the audience. This private event was put together mainly by friends and volunteers. From the conversations I had with the performers one thing came out evidently, i.e. cliques formation within this music circle has made retarded its progression. Mutual support between cliques wasn’t spontaneous, e.g. like attending each other’s events. Eventually the lack in attendance may translate to inability to mobilize sponsors.

Just when I thought the evening has ended. When I got back to hotel, we met Don at the lobby as well as other artists. Don dropped by our room to … of course play Jeff’s guitars. We had a great time chatting and watching Don’s amazing finger work on the guitars.

Don and Jeff, doing their own thing
That was a perfect day for me.

15 Oct 2011

First day of the Internation Fingerstyle Guitar Festival (国际指弹吉他音乐节). The festival venue was at the Shanghai Arts and Cultural Centre. In the morning, the IFSGF team met at the hotel cafeteria during breakfast at different tables and times. Many concurrent conversations were going on between the crews, managers, exhibitors and artists. Unexpectedly, we met Justin King, who was one of the artists. If you are into finger-style guitar playing, Justin needs no introduction. So we had breakfast. One thing common for all guitarists regardless of your proficiency in playing was the curiosity to try new guitars. Justin tried the Jeff’s Blackie and it was pretty easy to tell that he was impressed with it. It was indeed an honor to have Justin playing beside us.

Justin and the Blackie

Me and Justin

Jeff felt like the concert has began

Justin's 1957 Martin Dread, Braz B/S

Back view of this awesome guitar

Playing away ...

Jeff and Justin

Dan and Jeff

Me and Dan

Before we left the hotel, we caught up with Dan La Voie who is a Harp guitarist and a very talented one too. He is very approachable and I felt at ease totally talking to him. Of course we didn’t forget to take photos with him.

Boarding tour bus

Paolo, Hiko, Michel and Vitaly

Just alighted

Sungha Jung and Tomi

Group shot at the entrance

Finally we left for the festival venue. We were excited to kick start the festival. At the moment we arrived, we gathered at the entrance for a group photo. Immediately after that, everyone just went about to do what needs to be done spontaneously.

The exhibitors were busy setting up their tables and displaying their guitars. These are the participating guitar brands at the festival.
  • Ayers (
  • Crafter (
  • Fusion (
  • Furch (
  • Naga (
  • Yamaha (
  • Farida (
  • S. Yairi (
Beside guitars, there were accessories too like Freeman Acoustic Amp by Lisheng Musical Instrument, Vertech’s Humidity Manager and MiniFlex Microphones.
Max Lee of Fusion Guitars and I





Mr Namkung, the man for Crafter Guitars and Vertech Equipment

The main bulk of morning was spent on sound checking. The artists took turns and it ended just after lunchtime. The concert is scheduled to commence in afternoon. The detail schedule can be found here:

Hikaru Tanimoto sound checking

Ryohei Shimoyama sound checking

The artists' gears

Shinichi at work

While the artists were busy sound checking, many concertgoers have reached the venue. The exhibitions were in full swing. Entertaining the curious patrons who were eagerly waiting for the concert to commence. To many acoustic guitar players, they were not aware that guitars could be made from Monkeypod wood. Their knowledge on guitar building was generally derived from the Western methodologies and principles. Those who have tried Jeff's guitar were astonished with the design and tonal qualities of his guitars. Most agreed that Jeff's guitars were worthy to be regarded as high-end guitars. In this festival, the editor for Acoustic Guitar Magazine Japan was invited to cover the event. He is Shinichi Watanabe. Throughout the festival, I noticed his tireless professional attitude. He was present for all segments of the concert to capture the festival through taking pictures, videos and interviews. A familiar sight of Shinichi-san was his sitting posture along the stairways of the performance theater. He literally worked throughout without stopping.

Jeff and Hikaru

Me and Hikaru

Hikaru trying the Blackie

Sungha Jung, Jeff and Dan

Enjoying the Harp Guitar

Me and Sungha Jung

Sungha Jung and Tomi jamming

As the sound check was underway, Jeff and I visited the artists at backstage. We met Hikaru Tanimoto, a young guitarist from Japan. His unique style has earned him a place in this industry. Very approachable guy and his energetic persona never failed to delivered exciting shows. The other artists were having fun jamming with each other’s guitars. Nothing beats such informal settings. SungHa was enjoying Dan's harp guitar. Tomi was playing Jeff's Blackie. Don, Vitaly and Dan just looked on with joy. Soon after the concert has started. The artists were greeted with loud applause and excitement. The concert was in several segments that ran from the morning until night. The first day ended after 2200hrs. What a day. Artists' lives were not as glamorous as most people imagine. Unless you're a Mega star …

16 Oct 2011

It was the last day of the festival. Many eager contestants were waiting for their turns to impress the judges. It was the fingerstyle competition in the morning. The judges were Don Felder, Alex de Grassi, Hideaki “Pooh” Mastuoka, Paolo Sereno, Tomi Paldanius and Justin King. While this went on, the other artists found some breathing space and they came over the Jeff’s booth to check out his guitars.

Ryohei and Jeff

Me and Ryohei

Jacky Lau of Hong Kong

Dan and Jeff

Chris Liu of Taiwan

Dan and I

Chris and I

I managed to invite Shinichi-san, the editor of Japan Acoustic Guitar Magazine to sample Jeff's guitars. He was one of hardest working person at the show. Totally professionally I must say. Even with his vast knowledge, he was humble and unassuming. When arrived at Jeff's booth, it was love at first sight between him and Jeff's guitars. He was astonished by the wood selection of Jeff's guitars because Monkeypod was unheard of in Japan. The Japan acoustic guitar market was primary flooded by Westerners' and Japanese made guitars. Their knowledge of Asia’s luthiers was limited to their native.  

Shinichi and Jeff

Me and Shinichi

Guitar talks

He was in awe when he tried Jeff's guitars. The unique features of Jeff's guitar design arose his curiosity to a great extent. He was taking notes and asking many questions. With some good Japanese words from Shinichi-San, Jeff should be hearing some Japanese real soon. By noon, the competition has concluded and judges went into deciding the rankings of these contestants. Shortly, the rankings were decided and the prize presentation ceremony was held. Here’re pictures of the winners and prize presentation segment.

Hideaki "Pooh" Matsuoka giving away a prize

Top 3 prizes, left to right - Jeff Yong's Jumbo, Crafter and S Yairi



Justin, Jeff and the winner



Jeff and the winner

The final segment of the festival took over after the prize presentation. I must say the final segments of performances were electrifying. The duet by Tomi and Vitaly left the audience shouting for more. The anchor artist was Justin King. He delivered the final punch but something happened … his guitar sound disappeared in the midst of the first song. A professional he is, shrugged off the technical glitch with a smile and continued to play. The audience didn’t settle for just one set from Justin and they encored him to play more and he ended the festival by his infamous tune, the Phunkdified. He rocked the house and the festival ended on an ultra high note.

I guess it is customary to have post concert parties. We went to a steamboat restaurant and had great food and company. This trip was another eye opening experience for me. Imagine the chance to get up close with all these amazing artists, chatting, joking and watch them play before me. Above all, meeting new friends have always been the greatest reward. There is nothing like a firm handshake and a sincere smile.

Below are more pictures taken of the festival.

Artists' make up room

Vitaly Makukin and I

Dan and Don signing autographs

The artists

Jeff and Shun Komatsubara

Shun Komatsubara and I

Alex de Grassi and I

Alex, Jeff and the giant Vitaly

Going to feast

Just arrived ... Tomi, Dee, Justin, Sungha, Hikaru, Jacky

Drinks ...


Paolo, I and Hiko

Jeff and them
Chia Wei and wife, lovely couple they are

In this closing section, I would like to pay tribute to the organizing team for making it happen . Regardless those in the limelight or backstage, everyone has contributed to this festival in his or her own ways. Huang Chia Wei, the driver of this festival has worked tirelessly to get things flowing. His team of supporting members was very professional yet obliging in giving assistance when requested. Our basic needs were covered at all times. The artists have never failed to deliver great shows. They are a great company to be with. I may not have introduced every artist in this blogpost but each one is definitely high achievers in their own rights and they are all very dedicated to acoustic guitar music. The artists' managers like Dee, Michel and Hiko, they are wonderful people to meet and to have fun with. Not forgetting the exhibitors who rendered help to each other despite promoting different brands. Last but not least, Fusion Guitars has been very involved in many aspects of the show and I am very glad to meet Mr Lee and his son, Max Lee. I am pretty sure we will meet again.

If you come this far, you deserve a big THANKS for reading it.